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Goin’ Japanesque!

Gakuran, The Original Japanese School Uniform

About Gakuran

Among Japanese school uniforms, gakuran is one with a stand-up collar that is worn by buttoning up or hooking up to the throat. It is the original school uniform prepared for boys and several schools are still adapting gakuran today. Photo:


History of Gakuran


The school uniform was first adopted in Japan in 1879. It was based on military uniforms which became available as a result of modernization. First the Gakushuin, the school for children of imperial family and nobles, adopted the school uniform with a stand-up collar and then it was adopted at Tokyo Teikoku University (current Tokyo University) 6 years later.

Kimono was still the type of clothing mainly worn by people at the time but around 1920 in which western cloths started to become popular among commoners, the school uniform started to be adopted by many schools. During the war period, the school uniform became unavailable but once the war finished and the restoration work progressed, male students in university, high school and middle school started to wear the school uniform with a stand-up collar.


Origin of Gakuran

In the past, people in Japan used the word “ran” to indicate things from western culture, and it also applied for western clothes and they were called “ran fuku” (fuku means clothes in Japanese). Since the school uniform is the “ran fuku” (western clothes) for “gaku sei” (students), it started to be called “gakuran” taking “gaku” from “gaku sei” and “ran” from “ran fuku”. This is the origin of the name “gakuran”. When you consider the origin of the name “gakuran”, it seems that this word should apply to all types of school uniforms. But since the first generation school uniform was created with a stand-up collar, the word often refers only to the school uniform with a stand-up collar.


Gakuran Which Can Be Seen Today

When you are in Japan, you can find students in gakuran in everyday life and gakuran’s use is not limited to the practical world but it is also used in the world of TV, anime, manga as one type of characters’ clothes. Here, we introduce the characters who wear the school uniform and are very famous worldwide.

1. Yusuke Urameshi from “Yu Yu Hakusho”


Yu Yu Hakusho is a story in which high school boy Yusuke Urameshi, the leading character who got into the car accident and died, gets resurrected and acts as a spirit world detective to keep control over youkai (Japanese monster) to prevent them from doing evil things in the human world.

The original is in manga but it has been made into anime and it became popular among boys and girls in 1990s.

2. Jotaro Kujo from “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure”

It’s an adventure story in which the family of the leading character and their old foe, both with special abilities, unfold the fights of fate over generations. Jotaro Kujo is a high school student that appears in the 3rd series of the story as a leading character.

The manga started being serialized in 1980s and it still is the ongoing series. It is supported by wide range of age groups.

3. Nameneko


Nameneko are characters of cats that are dressed like motorcycle gangs and they became a boom in 1980s. They are real cats wearing clothes and they became so popular that their picture books and records were released. Recently, triggered by the release of products commemorating its 35th anniversary, it is becoming a trend again.
Related: Funny & Cute! 9 Cosplay Pics of Dogs with Plenty of Individuality

4. Kishidan (氣志團)

Kishidan is a Japanese 6-member rock band that was created in 1997. The group became a topic with their unique performance performed in the bad-youth style from 1980s and they made their major debut in 2001. 

5. Cheer Leading Group


Cheer leading groups are uniquely organized at middle school, high school, university and others. A leader who is wearing gakuran conducts the members and you can often find their manly performance cheering for their school’s teams at sports festivals, sport competitions, Koshien series and others.


Recently, blazer coats are becoming popular but there are still several schools adopting gakuran and you can find students wearing gakuran in various locations. If you happen to find one of them, it may be interesting to look at it as a kind of design for Japanese clothes. 

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About the author

I'm interested in general in all things related to culture and fine arts with a focus on movies, art, and design. I hope to introduce to many people all the different sides to Japan in regards to Japanese culture.

View all articles by KAWATA